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Idiom – definition

There is no one set definition of what an idiom is. The word itself comes either from Latin
idioma, where it denotes special property, or from Greek idiōma, meaning special feature,
special phrasing. Hence, the logic imposes associations with elements of language phrases
that are typical for a given language and, therefore, hard to translate into another language.
We as a laymen use the imprecise definition of idiom as a group of words established by usage as
having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.

Many idioms are quite informal, so use them carefully. We will need to be able to understand
a lot of idioms to read English fiction, newspapers or magazines, or understand TV shows,
films and songs. People also often use idioms for humour or to comment on themselves, other
people and situations.
Idioms and their properties:
 Idioms take many different forms or structures. They can be very short or rather long. A large
number of idioms consist of some combination of noun and adjective, (e.g., cold war, a dark
horse, French leave, forty winks, a snake in the grass. Some idioms are much longer: to fish in
troubled waters, to take the bull by the horns, to cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth. )

 A second kind has a regular form but a meaning that is not transparent. “ To have a bee in
one’s bonnet” (mieć kręćka, fioła) has a regular form, but its meaning is not obvious.

 There is a third group, in which both form and meaning are irregular. “ To be at large”: the
form Verb + Preposition + Adjective without noun is strange. If we talk about a prisoner who
is (still) at large, it means that he is still free. Here are similar examples: to go through thick
and thin, to be at daggers drawn, to be in the swim.

Types of idioms:
Color idioms
Black idioms:

Black as night
Somewhere very dark, when it is hard to see anything

 We had another power cut last night; it was as black as night in our house. We
didn’t even have any candles!

Black eye
A bruise near one’s eye

 Fred came home with a horrible black eye today, but he won’t tell us what
happened!
Black market
A term used for places where goods are illegally bought and sold for a profit.

 Jerry used to sell cigarettes from South America on the black market!

Black as a skillet
Used to describe something that is very dirty, black with dirt

 My hands and clothes were as black as a skillet, and I was only halfway through
cleaning your garage!

In someone’s black books


To be in disgrace or in disfavour with someone

 After that argument yesterday, I assure you he will be in a lot of people’s black
books for quite some time!

Blue idioms

Out of the blue


To appear out of nowhere without any warning, to happen quite suddenly or randomly by
surprise

 Greg has decided to quit his job out of the blue, and go travelling for a year!

Blue pencil
To censor something, or limit the information that is shared

 The reports about how soldiers were being treated abroad had been blue-
pencilled by the authorities.

A blue-eyed boy
A critical description of a boy or young man who is always picked for special favours by
someone in a position of higher authority.

 He is such a blue-eyed boy! I don’t like that the manager always treats him as if he
is special, it is not fair on the rest of us!
A bolt from the blue
When some unexpected bad news is received

 It was a complete bolt from the blue for us, we had no idea that they were having
problems, let alone getting divorced!

Blue blood
Used to describe someone from a noble, aristocratic or wealthy family

 Many of the blue bloods in our town were invited to the royal wedding.

Green idioms

To be green
Used to describe someone who is immature, or inexperienced

 He can be rather green sometimes. I don’t think he’s ready to be promoted to a


higher position yet.

Green with envy


Used to describe someone who is extremely jealous, full of envy

 When we were children, my older brother always used to get green with envy if my
dad bought something for me and not for him.

Give someone the green light / get the green light


When someone receives, or is given, permission to go ahead with something

 We have been given the green the light by the Marketing Executive to go ahead
with the new advertising campaign.

Grass is always greener on the other side


Used to describe a place that is far away, and better than, where you are now, or another
person’s situation that is very different from your own

 He realised that the grass is always greener on the other side when he saw that his
new job wasn’t perfect, and had its own problems too.
Green belt
An area of fields and trees around a town

 Our city has a policy of increasing the green belt around it.

Grey idioms

A grey area
Something that is not clearly defined, and there is still debate as to whether it is ‘black or
white’, neither one way or another

 Some of the current rules surrounding bedroom tax in the UK seem to be in a grey
area, as many residents disagree with its determining factors.

Get gray hair from (someone or something)


To be exceedingly worried, stressed, or upset by or about something or someone.

 I'm getting gray hair from thesekids screaming all day long.

All cats are grey by night


In the dark of night, appearances do not matter (because it is so difficult to see anything).

 A: "I can't believe you'regoing on a date with someone you've never met before! What
if you don't think he's attractive?"
B: "Ah, all cats aregrey by night, so it will be fine."

Gray matter
Intelligence. (In medicine, "gray matter" is tissue in the brain and spinal cord.)

 Come on in—we could use your gray matter as we try to solve this problem.
The men in grey suits
are the men who are in control of an organization or companyand who have the power.

 They were very definite about not wanting the same old boring city men in grey suits
giving financial advices.
Golden idioms

A golden opportunity
An opportunity that may never present itself again

 Think carefully about what you’re going to do, this is a golden opportunity, and
you don’t want to mess it up!

A golden handshake
A large sum of money that is paid to a retiring manager or director, or to a redundant worker

 The company Chairman received a huge golden handshake when he retired.

Golden boy
The term given to a young man idolised for a great skill, usually in sport.

 By many of his fans, Wayne Rooney is seen as the golden boy of his football team.

Golden hello
A sum of money paid to a new employee as a benefit for being recruited by a company.

 He had such an impressiveresume that he was offered a sizeable golden hello for joini
ng the company.

The golden rule

the most important rule, principle, etc. to remember when you are doing something:

 When you’re playing a stroke in golf, the golden rule is to keep your eye on the ball.

Pink idioms

Tickled pink
To be very pleased, thrilled or delighted about something

 Anna was tickled pink that her fiancé had made such an effort for her birthday.
See pink elephants
When someone sees things that are not really there, because they are in their imagination

 Anyone who hears his story thinks he sees pink elephants. It’s just such a far-
fetched story, and very hard to believe.

Pink Slip
A termination notice received from a job

 They gave me my pink slip last week, so I’ve got to find a new job now.

In the pink of something


Meaning in very good health

 My grandmother looked ever so well when I saw her, she was in the pink of
condition.

Red idioms

To be shown the red card


This derives from football terminology, and means to be dismissed from your job

 The company Accountant was shown the red card, after they found out he was
using company money for personal gain.

To be in the red
To have an overdraft, be in debt to your bank, or owe an institution some money

 I’ve got three credit card bills to pay off at the moment. I hate being in the red!

To be out of the red


To be out of debt

 Our company is finally out of the red now. We’ve managed to pay back our loan,
and now we’re making profit!

A red flag
A signal that something is not working properly or correctly

 The fallen trees along the road raised a red flag for the safety inspectors.
Blood red
Used to describe the deep red colour of something

 She was wearing a beautiful cocktail dress with blood red lipstick to match.